South Africa

PIC hinders platinum mine takeover by holding onto shares

South Africa’s Public Investment Corp. said it’s decided against selling its shares in Royal Bafokeng Platinum, the miner at the centre of an increasingly heated takeover battle.

The PIC, Africa’s biggest fund manager, owns almost 9.9% of RBPlat, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Those shares could help either Impala Platinum Holdings or rival Northam Platinum Holdings get closer to gaining control of RBPlat.

The PIC, which oversees more than R2.5 trillion ($143 billion) of mainly government workers pensions, is also a key investor in Impala and Northam. The fund manager’s stance could force the platinum miners into a joint venture.

“The PIC, after considering both financial returns for its clients and societal impact of the proposed transaction involving RBPlat, has decided to hold on to its position in RBPlat,” a spokesman said in an emailed response to questions.

“The PIC has communicated this decision to both Impala Platinum and Northam Platinum.”

Impala Chief Executive Officer Nico Muller in June asked the PIC to make a decision on RBPlat, saying delays in selling its stake were stoking investors concerns.

For the past 12 months, Impala has been battling with Northam to gain control of RBPlat’s assets, which are key to prolonging the life of its own adjacent Rustenburg operations.

“As the biggest shareholder in all three companies and the broader South African economy, the final outcome of our offer and future platinum-group mining dispensation in the Rustenburg area is firmly in the hands of the PIC,” Impala spokesman Johan Theron said via text message.

“They fully understand this responsibility and undoubtedly will advance the best interest of all these stakeholders in their decision-making process.”

Impala has built a 40.7% stake in RBPlat, while Northam owns just under 35% of the miner, after buying out its biggest shareholder.

Northam last week announced a competing bid for RBPlat, offering R172.70 per share in cash and stock to investors. That’s 15% above Impala’s earlier offer.

Northam didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

If neither Impala nor Northam fail to gain a majority stake in RBPlat, investors would have to decide whether they want it to remain listed on the Johannesburg bourse, according to Mandi Dungwa, an analyst at Camissa Asset Management in Cape Town.

“If RBPlat shareholders, including the current bidders, believe that is suboptimal, it maybe de-listed and run as a joint venture,” Dungwa said.

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